Tender points: What are they? Are they used to diagnose fibromyalgia?

Answers from Connie Luedtke, R.N.

Tender points are areas of the body that are sensitive and hurt when firm pressure is applied. In the past, at least 11 of these 18 spots had to test positive for tenderness to diagnose fibromyalgia.

But fibromyalgia symptoms can come and go, so a person might have 11 tender points one day but only eight tender spots on another day. And some doctors may be uncertain about how much pressure to apply during a tender point exam.

While specialists or researchers may still use tender points, an alternative set of guidelines has been developed for doctors to use in general practice. These newer diagnostic criteria include:

  • Widespread pain lasting at least three months
  • Presence of other symptoms such as fatigue, waking up tired and trouble thinking
  • No other underlying condition that might be causing the symptoms


Connie Luedtke, R.N.

Mar. 06, 2014